Micro Focus Touts North America Expansion Amid Company Changes

Active on the acquisition front, Micro Focus has made five U.S. acquisitions since 2008, including last year's pickups of Borland Software and Compuware's application testing tool product line. It's continued to build out its North American management team, and in March appointed Nigel Clifford, former CEO of Symbian and a top executive at Nokia, its new CEO.

North American strength could prove stabilizing for Micro Focus, which earlier this month reported flat quarterly revenues. Management upheaval has also been a concern as former finance director Nick Bray left the company, following about eight months after the resignation of former CEO Stephen Kelly.

But this week, it's touting the success of the Borland and Compuware product integrations as opening up an overall market opportunity of $6.4 billion for the company -- one that the economic downturn has catalyzed, according to Ken Powell, president, North American Operations.

"We continued to grow. Why? We're taking costs out of business software, which is something that became real for a lot of CIOs last year," he said in an interview with CRN earlier this summer.

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Powell joined Micro Focus in 2009 from SAP and was previously CEO of Marketworks and River Logic, and a senior executive at Apple, Broadvision, McAfee and Oracle. Application modernization has been around for a while, he noted, but software applications are seeing closer scrutiny as businesses struggle to cut costs.

Enterprises also see the need to migrate their applications to support new infrastructure models like cloud computing, but they're not looking to invest large sums to do so, either, Powell said.

"The idea is, 'Can I take my billing application that we wrote decades ago and does a great job and keep it?'" Powell said. "The answer is yes, yes, you can, and you can do so without changing an ounce of code, and with doing whatever would make sense for you. That's what we mean by the concept of taking and modernizing an application."

Among recent product releases from the company are Silk4Net and DevPartner Studio, both for tight integration with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. There is also a diagnostic tool, SilkPerformer Diagnostics, developed in partnership with dynaTrace, and SilkPerformer CloudBurst, which offers load testing as a cloud computing service.

Continuing to build Micro Focus' North American channel base has also been a priority, Powell said, though the company has been a channel force for some time.

"Demand in the marketplace is unprecedented for modernization solutions at the moment," said Adam Burden, global managing director with Chicago-based Accenture. "It's not hard to figure out why, everyone is doing more with less."

Enteprise CIOs see many of their legacy applications having "atrophied," Burden said, because in many cases they haven't seen upgrades or maintenance in years.

Micro Focus' track record for successful software migrations has helped it win deals because customers are finally forced to learn how to make better use of what they have versus add to their already-bloated application portfolios.

"They're willing to change directions," Burden said of Micro Focus, "in tune with market demand."